Sunday, 23 February 2014

Interview Part 2

And here's part two of the interview that Vito conducted. I'd like to thank him again for offering to do this, and I'd suggest that you all check out his work. Here's some links to some of his stuff:

Interview Part 2

9. Where do you see Legacy five years from now? Will you continue to self-publish?

LEGACY 5 years from now? Hopefully in every comic book store in North America. Realistically I know that's (beyond) extremely ambitious, there's a LOT of VERY good independent books being done these days and it's hard for them to get picked up for wide distribution, so I know the odds are against me, but that doesn't mean I'm going to roll over either. I've greatly enjoyed the self-publishing that I've done so far- it's a lot of work, A LOT, but every time you accomplish something, no matter how small, it's a victory. Even this interview. To have someone who's work and character that I respect offer to take the time to do something like this for me, as opposed to the self Q&A I was going to do, is a big thing. Self-publishing makes you appreciate things a bit more, I think.

I had a five year plan in place for LEGACY, New Guard and some other titles, but I've had to recently modify it- one artist wanted to cut back on workload and I'm fine with that. Benefit to self-publishing is that YOU set the schedule. I was aiming for quarterly releases but after 2015 that will most likely be reduced. Hopefully by that time the books will start picking up and I can keep that sort of schedule, but I'm aware that I might not be able to. The books will keep coming either way though. Kenan is in for the long-haul; I had a blast doing New Guard with him and love what he's bringing to LEGACY on #5. Andre and Jessica Jimerson have been fantastic and we're currently on a very BIG book that's going to take the rest of the year and probably part of next to finish. They've been rockin' pretty hard on LEGACY #3 and #4 too. 

Plans are in place for a few more books, with the artists I've mentioned as well as a few new faces- I'm always looking for new people to work with. Budget and time are the two biggest obstacles. Self-publishing also means SELF-FUNDING and artists like to make money to buy food and stuff (can you imagine?!) so that's something that factors in and Andre has garnered some interest from a few DC folks as well as another indie comic writer, Damian Wampler, so his availability has become a bit more limited.

LEGACY has always been planned as a, roughly, 150 issue run, with New Guard coming in around 50 books, so it's not like I'll run out of stories anytime soon. We might not ever hit that magic 150 mark (unless someone has a few hundred thousand dollars that they can spare) but there are key storylines that I'll be telling for sure at one point or another.  I'm not averse to telling stories in straight prose form as well if it comes down to it.

9B. What about story-wise? Where do you see it going in five years (no spoilers!)?

Story-wise LEGACY will be expanding on the supporting/secondary cast- the District Attorney's office, the firefighters that we were introduced to at the end of #1, and various other citizens and their stories. Most of it will tie in with Paragon in one way or another but everyone will have their chance to shine. For Paragon we'll see how he tries to establish himself as a beacon to the people of the city and the threats and challenges that lay ahead of him. As we see in the first two issues, he's NOT the only one with powers and it's possible that he's waging a one-man war against an army of villains.

10. New Guard is...pardon the What made you want to write a team book?
New Guard came about from a few things but one of which is my love of superhero team books. Not only do you get more bang for your buck in terms of spandex-wearing punch'm up action, but, to me, it just makes sense that these people would seek each other out. Fans of sports teams do, people who work in the same industries do, why wouldn't superheroes? The team is a fun thing to play with too because they all have different motivations for joining- no two are alike in that respect- and I enjoy the conflicts that it brings up in the character interactions.

11. Which do you find easier to write? Legacy, with one main protagonist? Or New Guard, which is essentially an ensemble?

LEGACY has Paragon as its main protagonist but I like to throw in just as many scenes without him as with. The book IS named after the city that it's based in after all, NOT the guy in the mask. Paragon is easier in a way because it's a singular voice, and every time I write him I learn something new about him. I love that. New Guard is a LOT of fun to write because of the different personalities and motivations that the characters have- they practically write themselves.

11B. Do you ever sit down with either the LEGACY or NEW GUARD script/plot and find yourself diverging from your plan because of the large cast(s)? Does one character's voice tend to overpower the others?

Without a doubt. I've written entire scenes without having a clue where they came from- the character just "took over" as it were and it seemed to write itself. I try to balance the New Guard characters as much as possible because they don't all have their own books to develop their stories, but it comes down to what works best for the overall story that I'm trying to tell in a specific issue. Cross took a backseat in New Guard #1 but as we'll come to see, he's more of a strategist/man-behind-the-scenes guy than a field leader.

12. Will the two titles ever crossover?

You'll be seeing an appearance by a couple of New Guard members in the pages of LEGACY but not in the traditional "cross-over" fashion. New Guard is set further down the timeline of the S17 books- in my notebook I have New Guard #1 coming in around LEGACY #60, so it's a ways off. As I mentioned earlier though I'm a fan of generational stories so you can be sure that not everything follows a nice linear progression- we'll see stories of Legacy's future and past in addition to its present.

12B. A 60 issue gap is...ambitious, but also kind of odd. Funny enough, that's a five year difference (on an optimal schedule of 12 issues a year for five years). Coincidence? Are you doing NEW GUARD now, as opposed to in five years because you fear not getting to it? Or is it structured that way for the reader's experience?  

Ambitious is a polite way of saying "crazy", right? LOL  I'm well aware that reaching that mark of LEGACY as an indie comic producer is unlikely but I wanted to be able to show that there's more than JUST the one book and the one story. I have nearly 160 characters and they all have at least a dozen stories or so to tell. New Guard being set that far down the timeline helps to show that. There are a few things that tie the two books together- as I mentioned you'll see a couple of New Guard members showing up in LEGACY and I hope to do some more books that are set at different points that paint part of the larger picture that is the Legacy-verse.

13. As a self-publisher, what does your job entail? Gimme the nuts and bolts of what it means to self-publish.

Self-publish means to do everything yourself. 

Literally everything. 

Except in my case the art- that thankfully I have people I can hire to do that. The promotion, the marketing, the putting together of files to send off to the printer (an incredibly tedious and frustrating process for a non-techie fellow such as myself), hiring of aforementioned artists, bill-paying, book-keeping (though thankfully Cassandra has started taking over that for me) and anything else you can think of. 

Coordinating art teams takes time, so does finding new talent, writing blogs, tweeting or doing whatever you can to build a fan-base. I've been insanely fortunate to meet people that have helped in various ways throughout the course of this venture and opened doors that I myself would have to PRY open. 

At the end of the day though it means that you are accountable and responsible for making sure everything gets done and (hopefully) done well.

14. I know that one of your characters is going to appear in another independent book, Eagle and Lark. How did that come about? Any plans for other cameos?

Lark and Eagle I came across through Kickstarter- I loved the concept and saw that one of the Reward Levels was to have a character that you owned make a cameo in the book. For an independent publisher, it was a very good opportunity to get exposure for my books and I jumped on that. Unfortunately it didn't reach its goal and wasn't funded but one of the best parts of that was getting to know the writer behind the book, Steve Johnson, and he assured me that he'll be doing another one down the road and this time we WILL get Lark and Eagle successfully funded. I've become a very strong supporter of indie (mainly superhero because that's what I like) comic books since just before starting my own and I truly believe that the best way for any of us to succeed is to help each other out and offer support and promotion.

And Steve's just a great guy- my house was recently broken into and between his jokes, and another comic creator I've met, Peter Raymond (he's got a pin-up in LEGACY #3 btw) it made the experience WAY easier to deal with. It was a small thing, and one neither of them had to do, but it was much appreciated. Lark and Eagle are welcome to come visit Legacy anytime down the road should he want and I would love to see Paragon show up in Steve's book. As a fan I love character cross-over stuff as long as it's a good story and I'd welcome more down the road.

15. Optimally, what do you want S17 to be? A springboard to something else? Its own autonomous entity? It's obvious you have a passion for your books and, sure, you want them to succeed in a volatile marketplace, but as a publisher, what is your goal for S17?

I used to think that people who just wanted to do strictly creator-owned work were crazy- guys like Robert Kirkman who said something along the lines of "why would I want to write Spider-Man when I can write my own book, Invincible, and do whatever I want without editorial or corporate edicts getting in the way of the story I want to tell?" I'm probably butchering what it was that he said exactly but that was the basic idea behind it. Now I can see EXACTLY where he's coming from. 

If S17 can carve out a small (though hopefully large) fan base and get better with every release, then I'll be happy with it. I plan on expanding into novels and short stories (not all tied in with LEGACY though) down the road and I'd love to see my name, and the S17 logo, on a book in your local store.

16. Have you explored digital distribution at all? If so, what's the appeal of it?

I have looked into digital sales- currently you can find S17 books available for download on DriveThruComics, and, eventually Comixology, though it's a bit more complicated to get books sold through them. Graphicly was a site I was hoping to list through but I didn't care for the fees for set-up that they charged, especially after asking some people I know that have listed through them- simply not worth it for the handful of sales. 

I really like DriveThru in the way that you actually OWN the book when you purchase it- so many of the digital sites are essentially a lease- you have the books but only if you read it through their system or on their site. I'm of the mind that if you give me the money for something you're buying, then you should get to keep it and peruse it at your leisure, not get screwed out of it if a site or company goes down. You pay the money, you get the stuff. Seems simple enough. 

Digital is great because it's a lower price point (at least with the way I price things) so it's easier for people to spend their money on (and get since print can cost a lot for shipping) and lower overhead than print for me.

Interview Part 1

Recently I decided to do a Q & A of sorts, featuring some of the more common questions that I've been asked in the time since I've started making comic books but that idea changed after Vito Delsante, a fellow comic writer, and someone who I greatly respect as a creator and as a person, offered to conduct an interview, instead. I've split the interview up into two parts as it's a little long due to my rambling. It was a lot of fun and I hope you enjoy hearing more about the books.  

1. Andrew, give me the highlights of who you are. Where were you born, family...all the fluffy stuff.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, grew up in the country about a twenty minute drive from the city. More or less an only child, I have a half-sister (though I've never thought of her as "half") but she never lived with us. I have two sons, Xavier and Nate, who are two of my biggest supporters, along with my parents and my wonderful girlfriend, Cassandra.

2. What was your first comic? What attracted you to it?

The first comic book that I ever remember reading/being read to me was an Uncle Scrooge comic when I was about four years old. I can recall a fair bit of the one story but not the whole book. My first superhero comic book was Web of Spider-Man #4. It was the first thing I ever bought with my "own money". I would've been six when it came out. It was lost when my basement flooded at one point (along with all my other Spider-Man, Batman and Superman comics) but I managed to track a copy down at a comic con a couple years after that. What attracted me to it? Spider-Man. I was big into the 60s Spider-Man cartoon and he was easily my favorite superhero back then.

3. Did you study art or writing in high school? College?

I've never FORMALLY studied writing beyond high school and reading dozens of articles and one or two books that I came across on the topic of comic book writing. I have nearly a dozen "How To Write" books that I never got past the first chapter of. I've found the adage of "the best way to learn is to DO" to be very true. I enrolled in every English course that they offered in high school and usually did well in them (when I did the assignments) and had some really great teachers that are to blame for me thinking I might be a half-decent story-teller.

3B. Do you feel that "learning on the job" is a better experience or do you wish you took some creative writing or screenwriting courses?  

Learning on the job was probably the best way for me- obviously it's different for everyone- and there's never anything wrong with learning new things, I'm always looking for ways to expand my knowledge in the field, though a formal learning course has yet to happen. I've managed to meet a lot of writers who have been willing to share their insights and that has been great.

4. What was the moment you decided that this was something you wanted to pursue? Was it a comic you read? A movie you watched?

Writing comic books has been something I have wanted to do since I started doing any kind of writing back in junior high school. It was always one of those "man that'd be cool to do one day" sort of things. Something that you think or dream about but don't really expect to ever DO. For anyone who doesn't know how hard it can be to get into the "industry"- you have a better chance of making money playing the lottery professionally than you do breaking into comics.

What made me finally venture into it myself were two things. The first was a local author, A.P Fuchs, who wrote a series of novels featuring Axiom-man, a Winnipeg-based superhero that he self-published. The other influence was Charlie McElvy who, when he was unable to do a comic book featuring the characters he created, opted to take a different path and created a role-playing game book entitled The WatchGuard Sourcebook. He would later go on to run a successful Kickstarter to get his comic books with those same characters funded.

The two of them made me see that if you had an idea that you believed in, and were willing to do the work and put it out there, that you could make it work in your own terms, WITHOUT having to rely on an outside force or publisher to get it done. If you wanted it bad enough, you could make it happen. That there are no excuses. You want to do it? MAKE it happen.

4B. But why comics, specifically? You acknowledge how hard it is to break in, but still you were attracted to...what, exactly?

I simply love comics. To me it's the ultimate art form- nothing else combines two of the greatest creative endeavors (the written word and the drawn/painted picture) in such a perfect synthesis.

5. What do you do on your books? How did you learn to do this? Did you teach yourself?

For the books, I do all the writing: the script and the dialogue are all me- the fantastic art that graces the pages of LEGACY and New Guard and make my OK ideas look fabulous are all up to the great group of artists that I work with. In the script I let the artist know what's going on for that page, most of the time breaking it down into the panels for them, though lately, as I've worked more and more with Kenan and Andre (my primary artists), I've even started leaving that part of it up to them on some pages. Especially any big action-y pages. As long as the page starts and ends the way I need it to, how we get there I leave in their capable hands.

Other than reading a bunch of scripts that I found online (or any Director's Cut books that DC or Marvel put out) and a once through on DC'S  Guide to Writing Comics, everything I did was trial and error. It really is the only way to do it. My scripts, and the books as a result, have VASTLY improved with each outing. One thing I'd like to mention is that New Guard #2 will be the first time that I'm CO-WRITING a book, in this case with Christine Steendam, a local author that I've gotten to know over the last year or so. Christine has come on to help bring an authentic feel to a certain sub-plot and I'm very excited to work with her on it.

6. What was the primary influence that resulted in Legacy?

LEGACY came from three sources. Starman by James Robinson from DC Comics was a big influence, a little known one-shot book put out by DC entitled The Legacy of Superman (I had to go through my back issues to find the name of it- I seriously had no idea until I found it again that it had "legacy" in its title) and, in a non-comic book influence, Isaac Asimov's Foundation series.

All of those books are what you might call "generational stories" that take part over years that, though they contain smaller arcs, also have a greater overall story to it. I've always been fond of that type of story as a reader. They are also all remarkable in the fact that they concentrate on more than just the "main" character. Starman isn't JUST about Jack Knight in the same way that Foundation isn't just Hari Seldon's story and the Legacy of Superman occurs after his death at the hands of Doomsday. He doesn't even appear in it except in flashbacks. I like that you can have a story full of action and adventure with swashbuckling heroes but still have those character moments that only "real" people can bring to a narrative.

6B. Asimov is an interesting influence, in that he is more known for sci-fi than for comics. Is that an indication of where LEGACY is headed?

Asimov was heavily influenced by "pulps" in his youth- essentially the forerunner for comic books- and many of today's superheroes have SF style origins, thanks to Stan Lee and Julius Schwartz, so it's not much of a stretch to have a science fiction feel to parts of LEGACY. We will be seeing some of the future of Legacy and its citizens in a few up-coming issues and there's definitely going to be some cool super science/tech stuff that Andre and Kenan will be drawing.

7. What is Legacy about?

LEGACY is a story of a city, named Legacy, which has seen better days. It's a city that has lost faith in itself. Not unlike many cities around the world. Look at Detroit, a city once held up as THE standard of industry and that has since declared bankruptcy. More and more white collar crime drags down people's spirits, while crimes on the streets endanger people's physical well-being. LEGACY is a place that too many people can relate to. Legacy needs some hope. And they may have found it in a certain masked vigilante who seems to be using his superhuman powers to fight crime. Not everyone is convinced though. Would you be? How often have we raised people up on pedestals to only find out later that they were not quite as heroic as they thought?

7B. Do you find it hard to base a fictional construct (a superhero) in such a real setting?

I think that if you set a superhero in a real setting like a city, then to keep it believable you have to add some realism to the story. I know, how do you make a guy that can leap city blocks and bench-press a truck seem real? I find that having lasting consequences and honest reactions from characters go a long way. If a building gets knocked down in one book, it shouldn't be totally fine in the next- fixing it would take time. People see a guy shoot fire from their hands; they're going to be a little leery about getting near a guy like that. Or they'll be far too close and taking a video of it on their smart phone.

7C. You mention that the people of Legacy (the city) are skeptical and possibly hesitant to accept Paragon's help. Is that how you (a Canadian) view Americans? The world?

I think that everyone, unfortunately, is a little skeptical these days of things that seem "too good to be true". A masked vigilante would be hard to fully trust- not only is he hiding who he is, but he's technically working outside of the law. I wouldn't blame folks for being a little worried by someone like that.  

8. You changed artists between issue 1 and issue 2. Was that intentional? Were you dissatisfied with the original artist?

Mike Campeau was the artist on LEGACY #1 and I can never find enough words to thank him for working with me on that book. I wouldn't say I was COMPLETELY clueless as to what exactly I was doing but the learning curve was much steeper than I had expected and he walked me through it every step of the way. Mike is a truly classy guy who overcame some pretty serious health issues during the production of the book and I am forever in his debt. The reason for the switch was pretty simple- Mike has his own book that he does, Krimzon Kaine, and he had put off working on the second issue while he was working on LEGACY #1 and wanted to get back to it. Luckily, I found Andre and he was able to jump on to #2.